The Waffle House restaurant chain finds itself in the news again after a cellphone video surfaced this week showing police in Florida handcuffing a black couple who complained they were being overcharged for orange juice.
Employees at the Waffle House in Fort Walton Beach called police, the May 2 video shows, after the couple questioned their $27 check for a meal they said the menu priced at $18. Orange juice was listed on the menu for $1, they said, but they were charged $2.50.
A restaurant employee can be heard on the video explaining that the customers “kept yelling and arguing and saying no” and were “being belligerent.”
A police officer told the couple: “If you don’t pay your bill, you’re going to jail.”
“I’m willing to pay my bill, I’m trying,” the man responded in an agitated voice. “I’m sitting here adding my bill up, ‘How is my bill this high?’”
“The problem is you guys want to run your mouth,” one officer said. “Right when I walk in the door, he wants to start talking about ‘you guys ain’t gonna put your hands on me.’ OK, I’m trying to talk to him like a man to see what’s going on, but he wants to start saying stuff like that. And then you want to pull your phone, which that’s fine, you’ve got the right to record ... but what you did, the crime that you and your boyfriend or your husband committed is you didn’t pay your bill.”
Police ended up handcuffing both customers, but released them without charges.
Fort Walton police later released body camera footage to “set the record straight.”
“The cell phone video being shared only shows a small part of the incident and does not include that the individuals detained were released after the situation calmed and the bill in question was satisfied ― which is what the officers were trying to achieve from the beginning,” the department wrote in a Facebook post. “We met with other interested parties in regard to this matter and all parties involved determined that while there was no misconduct of the officers that the situation could have been handled differently by both parties involved.”
Waffle House said in a statement that it would “be doing additional training for the team members of this restaurant on the proper way to handle situations like this.” The chain acknowledged “our employee could have done more to de-escalate the dispute before calling the police.”
Waffle House restaurants have been involved in a number of disturbing incidents in recent months. Video showed a 22-year-old being put in a chokehold by police outside of a Waffle House in North Carolina last month. In April, video went viral of a black woman being thrown to the ground as a white Alabama police officer tried to violently arrest her.
A gunman armed with an AR-15 killed four people at a Tennessee Waffle House in April.